?

Did a critic ever stop you from writing for a while

  1. No, never

    11 vote(s)
    64.7%
  2. Yes, a few weeks / months

    6 vote(s)
    35.3%
  3. Yes, for a year or more

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. G. Anderson
    Offline

    G. Anderson Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    75
    Location:
    Germany

    Dealing With Criticism (Newly Self-published)

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by G. Anderson, Oct 1, 2016.

    Hi All,

    I am totally new to this forum, so I am still getting my head around it. I've just published (self-published mind you) a short satire to Amazon Kindle and I am currently in contact with publishers about another story! That means for the first time I'm getting constructive feedback on my stories and it scares me! I've never been great at these kind of things. I've seen that they are a few threads about this but I didn't find one which was very concrete. And I want to ask some of you if you have some particular experiences that were especially discouraging or rewarding in terms of what you learned?

    So far the hardest I've dealt with is generic feedback which can be frustrating because you wonder if they even liked your story and you will never really know whether your story was truthfully considered or they found it very poor. I get especially insecure about the language because I'm more of a story-teller - meaning that for me plot, message and characters come before beautiful writing. Also, I write in English because it's my preferred writing language but I am not a native speaker (a little weird, but English is a great descriptive language). So that's a point of insecurity, too.

    Best,
    G.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 1, 2016
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    No, never. Not even when the criticism was caustically unconcerned with even trying to be constructive.

    I know what I want to achieve.
    I know my goal will not (cannot) be everyone's cuppa'.
    I know how to distinguish someone who is being bluntly constructive from someone who is using me as a sort of masturbation toy to stroke his/her own ego.
    I know there is scalding criticism for even famous, popular books/writers.

    So... no. It's never stopped me.

    ----------------------------------------------------------
    PS: I had to edit the OP because, yes, that's advertising here. Stick around with us and participate. We have an area for that kind of thing that established members are absolutely welcome to use since, of course, the goal is to get published and we all want to know about the successes of our friends here in the forum. What we don't want is the forum becoming a stop&drop advertising location.
     
  3. G. Anderson
    Offline

    G. Anderson Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    75
    Location:
    Germany
    Hi,

    Wow, I wish I could be that strong with my writing. I know that stories and writing can be very subjective and that's great - there something for everyone and I am sure the world only gets better from having different people in it but still I am not naturally a confident person and I listen a little to easily to someone who says I am bad. How long have you been writing? Maybe it comes after time :)

    I've been writing my whole life but mainly in 'secret' and this is the first time I'm putting stuff out there, so I am interested in sharing experiences and stories. Which reminds me thanks for editing the post and letting me know about the policy - I wasn't sure about this because I wanted to share this story as a story where I could get feedback from, as it's 'only' a short satire but I (without thinking) uploaded it on Amazon before sharing it, so now I've agreed that it can only be accessed through their website. Ah well, then I learned that it's the wrong order to do things in and maybe I'll make 0.42 cent on it someday :D

    Thanks for your answer. I will try to be as strong!
     
  4. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    939
    Likes Received:
    1,074
    The strength that @Wreybies so poignantly talked about in his post is something that's learned. At least for me. I can't comment on whether or not he's always been that way, but I know that I'm just learning to filter feedback in the way he's describing.

    It can be tough to hear what other people have to say. Especially when they say things and it's apparent that they don't understand your vision. Then it brings up a whole new, and more vexing set of questions. Really, the way I've learned to counteract the negative feelings is to write more. I find myself writing better and better with each story. And another idea to take into consideration is that you can't please everyone. There will ALWAYS be someone who thinks your work is stupid/pointless/badly written. Just keep moving forward. Don't let others dictate how your goal will come to fruition.
     
    jannert and Lifeline like this.
  5. G. Anderson
    Offline

    G. Anderson Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    75
    Location:
    Germany
    Thanks for those encouraging words! I really like what you say about writing more, because I have done the opposite in the past - stopped writing even if the feedback wasn't bad but just bland.

    My writing definitely gets better and better though. I remember when I edited my first script and reading the first chapter and thinking 'what am I trying to say here?' especially being, as said, someone who will forgive slightly worse writing if the story or characters speak to me. But still, the reader has to know what I am saying :)

    I am also currently trying to learn how to listen to the constructiveness, open up to the positive but keep distance to those who only get a kick out of putting other people down.
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  6. big soft moose
    Offline

    big soft moose Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    1,056
    I'm with wreybies on this

    Critique comes in two forms a)constructive where people are aiming to seek to help you improve your story or your ability or both , and b) malicious where people are basically either motivated by jealous or trolling and are being hurtfull because it makes them feel big to make someone else feel small

    a) never stops me writing because its a spur, or a helping hand not a barrier

    b) never stops me writing because these people are idiots and I dont GAF what they think
     
  7. TheWriteWitch
    Offline

    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    107
    For me, the most frustrating feedback is one that has to do solely with mechanics and doesn't touch at all on other aspects. I pay an editor when I want a full-scale breakdown of dialogue tags or commas. For me, it is much more valuable when people respond as readers and ask questions about the story instead of point out grammar debates. When people's comments have nothing to do with the plot, character, or emotions that I was trying to portray then I get upset. I wonder if my writing just wasn't good enough to call their attention away from the minor flaws. In reality it is their narrow focus and attempts to be superior that irk me, but it takes awhile before I can step back and see that.

    I agree with the others that you really need to think about your critics' intentions. If they are not trying to be helpful or speak to what you want to know, then you have to dismiss them and move on. It's not easy but it is necessary.
     
    jannert likes this.
  8. Dr. Mambo
    Offline

    Dr. Mambo Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Iowa
    I don't know how nitpicky these critics are being toward you, but I can tell you that I personally am not able to "look past" grammatical errors, especially misuse of commas. Appropriate comma use is elementary. It's certainly not a difficult concept to learn. Any author unwilling to take the time to master the basics is an author I have no interest in reading.

    Maybe. It depends how egregious the errors are.


    To no one in particular, but as a general comment:

    I see a lot of hullabaloo on this forum about how the "rules" are for fools (mainly because they're too restrictive), and while I agree in spirit (just consider all the classic books that are renowned precisely because they break the rules in an effective way), I think it's a disservice to tell young writers the rules don't matter. How can a writer expect to break a rule effectively without first knowing what that rule is?
     
    jannert and Tenderiser like this.
  9. TheWriteWitch
    Offline

    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    107
    Even when you haven't been hired as an editor? Even when it is a peer asking for a general criticism, not an author asking you to buy their book? This is exactly the soapbox kind of criticism that I feel misses the point and fosters an atmosphere of superiority rather than helpfulness.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,996
    Likes Received:
    5,504
    I CAN'T look past grammar and punctuation errors to see the rest. Can't.

    Can you enjoy the wonderful lemon meringue pie if there's just a little thread of mustard going through it? Enjoy the theater performance if there's someone right next to you arguing with someone on their cell phone?

    Why not? After all, you aren't eating the pie as a food critic. You aren't attending the theater as a theater critic. How dare you get on your superior soapbox and be aware of those things?

    ???
     
  11. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    1,566
    Location:
    no longer between
    @ChickenFreak : It's possible. When the story is so compelling that you just can't NOT read :) I see past all that spag stuff and see the wonderful bones behind. (Yes, that is addressed at you my very dear storyteller, peeking in here ;) )
     
  12. Dr. Mambo
    Offline

    Dr. Mambo Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Iowa
    Absolutely, even in that case. A friend once sent me a short story he was very proud of immediately after completing the first draft. I read the whole thing even though it was littered with errors, and I was disappointed. He wanted to know what I thought, so I told him gently that I didn't feel it would be appropriate to comment until he had a chance to edit it. I offered to read it again and answer questions once he'd smoothed it out. Turns out it was a good story--but I didn't recognize that the first time around. Improper grammar is a huge distraction to me.
     
    deadrats and Tenderiser like this.
  13. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,293
    Likes Received:
    5,163
    Location:
    London, UK
    Your attitude comes across much more superior and arrogant than the critics you're describing!

    You do realise that people giving critiques are doing it for free, unlike your paid editor? They owe you nothing, and you certainly can't dictate what they spend their time on helping you with. It's a terrible idea to go into critique believing any comments on SPAG are nitpicking and an attempt to belittle you, instead of accepting that your writing needs work before the plot/characters/emotions can be at the forefront.

    And no, good storytelling is rarely sufficient to draw attention away from SPAG errors.
     
    Kara Gatsby, deadrats and Shadowfax like this.
  14. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,826
    Likes Received:
    7,351
    Location:
    Scotland
    That's an interesting point. You KNOW you've reached a reader when they start talking about what your character has done and what happens in the story—even if they think certain things aren't quite right. If they only comment on your writing style—even if what they say is complimentary—it's not what you want to hear, is it? You want to know if your story has actually engaged the reader.

    I think the problem arises when people start critiquing from the first sentence. They get so wrapped up in the trees that they can't see the forest. It's one of the reasons why, as a beta reader, I usually demand a finished piece of work. I always read through the whole thing before going back and starting my critique. Just nitpicking sentences isn't helpful, unless the writing is so incoherent with bad SPAG errors that it needs a total revamp. (Then, I suppose, a nitpicking critique is what the writer needs, because the story itself is buried in junk.)

    I know a lot of people say you should not expect family and friends to critique your writing, because they will be 'biased.' To some extent I agree. Don't ever give your writing to a person you know will deliberately undermine your confidence. But there is nothing wrong with giving your work to friends/family whom you trust. At least not when you're first starting out.

    Tell your readers to be honest, but direct them at what you feel might be a problem area. Does this go on too long? Do you think this (or that) character is believable? Etc. Tell them you want suggestions for improvements, and you want them to point out any flaws they find. Emphasize that your feelings will NOT be hurt if they don't like your writing at all, although it would help if they could tell you why. (And then mean it! Let them off the hook immediately.)

    What you do know for sure, with family and friends, is that they're not trolls. They are real people. As long as you deliberately avoid the people who aren't supportive of you in other circumstances, you should be fine.

    Make it clear that you're not looking for praise, but you're looking for reaction. And don't pre-judge the result. Don't tell them: "I think this is really great, what do YOU think?" Or give them the equally off-putting grovel: "Omigod, I'm so bad, why do I even try, you're going to hate this." Both of those approaches will make your friend/family member afraid to upset you. It won't be any help if they are afraid to criticize your story. If they can only squeak out: "Oh yes, this is wonderful, dear, well done, now when are you going to get published?" then creep quietly off into the night.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
    TheWriteWitch likes this.
  15. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,293
    Likes Received:
    5,163
    Location:
    London, UK
    Anyway, back to the OP.

    Yes; there was a stage when I was so discouraged by critique that I threw in the towel and gave up on my novel. It was my first story and I hadn't developed the maturity and confidence to accept negative critique. I mean, I didn't reject the critique and rant that the critics were wrong and jealous or superior or other such nonsense--I was just convinced that the problems they had identified weren't fixable because I wasn't a good enough writer.

    That lasted about a week until I got over myself and instead of moping that my story was dead in the water, made an action plan for fixing the issues. It only took a couple of days to sort out--not the complete rewrite of 100k words that I had envisaged when I was spiraling into despair. :D That fixed novel is the one that got me an agent, and that critique made my subsequent novels a million per cent better. I owe all of those critics, big time.

    I've also been on the flip side, where my (well-meaning) critique has discouraged an author from writing. I felt so terrible that I couldn't focus on my own writing until I knew he was back on track. I didn't critique for a while afterwards, because I was so afraid of hurting someone else... but the writing community is all about give and take, mutual feedback, and instead of giving up I'm much more careful about how I phrase feedback until I know an author well and know how much negative criticism they can take.
     
    jannert likes this.
  16. G. Anderson
    Offline

    G. Anderson Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    75
    Location:
    Germany
    Wow, this thread was on fire yesterday! :)

    Thank you all very much for your feedback. I've definitely gotten better at receiving feedback constructively through experience and as a result of this; I've also gotten better at writing. Not commas though. I am so bad at commas! Any tips for this? :)

    But your discussion has been perfect, because it exactly illustrates that different things speaks to different people (eg. some of us are all about the plot, some the characters, some the writing) and that for some to love something, others must hate it. So we can corporate constructive feedback into our next work without taking it personally.

    On a positive note: my self-published story is going surprisingly well. Not exactly a bestseller, but so far I've sold at least a copy a day without any marketing (still awaiting feedback from the bloggers I contacted for reviews). Which I didn't expect! Now, I am just thinking about howcome no one reviewed it yet and whether it was to bland. But I am already writing the follow-up.

    But thank you all again! :)

    Best,
    G.
     
    A man called Valance likes this.
  17. A man called Valance
    Offline

    A man called Valance Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Here and there, mostly there.
    Yup, and nobody is right or wrong. Just different, that's all.
     
  18. Likas
    Offline

    Likas New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2016
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    5
    Thank you, this was helpful. Almost nobody has seen the things that I have written so far, and I am slightly worried what will happen when people do start looking at what Iv'e written. What scares me the most is that people will decide it's not worth their time and not read it all.
     
    jannert and TheWriteWitch like this.
  19. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    1,356
    1/ Make sure you've snagged as much SPaG as you can; that the product is as near to perfect as you can make it. That way, us "Grammar-Nazis" won't either shred it or turn away after the first paragraph.
    2/ Post a sensible-sized portion. Around 1k words is OK; much more than that and you DO run the risk of people turning away without reading, because they haven't got the time right now...and later never comes.
    3/ Go for it! And good luck!
     
    jannert likes this.
  20. Raven484
    Offline

    Raven484 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    270
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    I think you just need to be a little more upfront with the reader. If you know SPAG is an issue, tell them you know it needs work but could they take a look. If they can't get past it they will tell you. Move on to another reader.
    My SPAG is terrible. It is getting better daily, but I have a few readers that I go to just to see what they think of the story. I have critiqued a few writers above but would not think of showing my work to them because I know what they look for. When the time comes and everything is cleaned up, I will ask them.
    I am a different kind of Beta reader. I put the pen down for a long time and I don't pick up on the errors like I should. I do my best to tell the writer what I think of his story and how it flows to me. What I like about their characters, and what I don't like.
    Maybe five years from now I will be different, but who knows.
    You have to respect the reader. I make sure every writer knows when I critique their work that I am not the SPAG guy. I might find something, but I am more about the story than the style.
    Everybody is going to be different.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,996
    Likes Received:
    5,504
    The only way that I could possibly pay any attention to the plot/story/characters/whatever of a work with SPAG errors would be to correct the other person's errors myself, put the work aside for a week, and then read it after I've mostly forgotten it.
     
    jannert likes this.
  22. Raven484
    Offline

    Raven484 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    270
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Nothing wrong with that @ChickenFreak. Knowing this I would just say to myself that it's not the time to show you my work. Eventually when cleaned up, I could approach you with the best written product. Just silently wishing it doesn't take me ten years to clean it up.
     
    jannert likes this.
  23. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,826
    Likes Received:
    7,351
    Location:
    Scotland
    I agree. It's like trying to enjoy a play when the actors keep forgetting their lines, saying 'sorry,' then speaking the line with a prompter hissing away in the background. You will go away with the impression that the play was incoherent, even if the idea behind it was fantastic.

    Writing is more than just ideas. It's the performance of the ideas that makes the product.

    It's a shame that so many folks who want to be writers have had a SPAG bypass somewhere in their past. They can't be good writers until they address this problem, can they? They need to become voracious readers, until they get a feel for what is right. They need to study and correct the errors they make, and understand why these are errors. It will take time, but I reckon it can be done. The worry is that many think it doesn't need to be done, and that if a good story is 'in there' somewhere, the reader should be able to pick it out of the mess.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
    Catrin Lewis and Tenderiser like this.
  24. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,826
    Likes Received:
    7,351
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, the good thing is, once you learn to recognise your errors and correct them, you won't make them again. This intensive correction procedure isn't something you'll need to do with everything you write.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
  25. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,826
    Likes Received:
    7,351
    Location:
    Scotland
    You can accept there will be people who will never like what you write, but it's easy to assume the fault is theirs if they don't understand your vision. Perhaps it's not.

    You can't fight prejudice (whatever form it takes) or superficial skimming, but if a dedicated reader has missed the point you intended to make, then maybe you can rewrite parts of the story to make the path clearer. For example, if your reader didn't 'get' what your character was actually trying to do with his life, then you can go back and rewrite that character so the next reader does. Etc.

    That's the value of critique. You'll never know if you've succeeded in transmitting your vision until readers get hold of your writing and give you feedback. If the feedback indicates they've missed something, then see what you can do to make it harder to miss next time.

    I'm doing that very thing just now, with the final draft of my first novel. I had a very helpful critique-giver get the wrong end of the stick regarding my main character's motivation. I'm working hard to correct that problem, which I see as my problem, not his problem, as he did read closely. I won't know if I've succeeded until another reader gets a shot at it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
    LinnyV, TheWriteWitch and Spencer1990 like this.

Share This Page